What tips or resources can you recommend to help seniors extend their driving years? My dad, who is 82, is still a decent driver, but I worry about his safety going forward.
With more than 40 million licensed drivers in the U.S. over the age of 65, there are many resources available today to help keep older drivers safe and behind the wheel longer. Here are some simple steps you can take to help keep your dad driving safely.
Get his eyes checked: Because about 90% of the information necessary to drive is received through our eyes, getting your dad's eyes checked every year to be sure his vision and eyewear is up to par is an important first step.
Check his meds: Does your dad take any medicine or combination of medicines that make him sleepy, light-headed or loopy? If so, make a list of all his medications (prescription and over-the-counter) and dietary supplements and take it to his doctor or pharmacist for review. You can also get help with this online at RoadwiseRX.com.
Evaluate his driving: To stay on top of any potential driving issues, you should take a ride with your dad from time-to-time and watch for problem areas. While you observe, ask yourself: Does he drive at inappropriate speeds, tailgate or drift between lanes? Does he have difficulty seeing, backing up or changing lanes? Does he react slowly, get confused easily or make poor driving decisions? For more tips, see the National Caregivers Library driving assessment checklist at SeniorDriverChecklist.org.
If your dad needs a more thorough evaluation, you can turn to a driver rehabilitation specialist who is trained to evaluate older drivers. This type of assessment typically costs between $100 and $200. To locate a professional in your area, visit AOTA.org/older-driver or ADED.net.
Take a refresher course: AAA and AARP both have older driver refresher courses that can help your dad tune-up his driving skills and learn how to adjust for slower reflexes, weaker vision and other age-related changes that affect driving. Taking a class may also earn him a discount on his auto insurance. To locate a class, contact your local AAA or AARP. Most courses cost around $15 to $30 and can be taken in the classroom or online.
Another good resource to look into is CarFit. This is a free assessment program that will help your dad adjust his vehicle for a better fit, making it easier and safer to drive. CarFit events are held around the country in select locations. See Car-Fit.org to look for one near you.
Make some adjustments: Recognizing your dad's driving vulnerabilities and making small changes to when and where he drives can go a long way to help keep him safe and driving longer. Adjustments may include not driving after dark or during rush hour traffic, avoiding major highways or other busy roads and not driving in poor weather conditions.
When it gets to the point that your dad's driving is not safe anymore and he needs to step away from the wheel, The Hartford Financial Services Group and MIT AgeLab offers two helpful resources. Visit The Hartford's website and click on "Publications" to download or order the "At the Crossroads" and "We Need to Talk" guides.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.